Autism affects 1 in every 68 U.S. children, and it follows them into adulthood. Each case is unique with each child experiencing different symptoms, yet some hallmarks of the condition are more prevalent in more kids. Autism can present unique situations in the daily life of families, depending on the needs of their child. For the most part, families are able to adapt and rework their routines for a happy, healthy child. However, a family with an autistic child still may experience daily challenges associated with the diagnosis. We highlight some of the more common situations families with kids on the autism spectrum face below.
Kids with the Tendency to Fixate
One of the most common symptoms of autism is a fixation. The child will identify an object he likes and become obsessed with it. For many kids, this object will be a movie, a store, a type of food, or even a billboard they see regularly. While this does not typically cause behavioral issues, hearing the same movie on repeat can begin to wear on family members who do not have the fixation.
If the object of affection is a food, the parent may find it challenging to provide a nutritionally complete diet to the child. The same can be said with autistic children’s affinity for routines. If the child comes to expect a certain food at a certain meal each day, it can be difficult to ensure a healthy diet. Parents must find ways to supplement the diet and maintain their children’s nutrition.
Parents Must Create and Stick to a Routine
Many kids on the autism spectrum thrive on routine. When they know what to expect each day, they become far less likely to act out, have meltdowns, or experience anxiety. Of course, this also limits their family members in what they can and can’t do each day. For significant routine changes or different events, they must plan far in advance in order to prepare their child for the upcoming alteration to his daily routine. Even with preparation, changes to a routine, such as family coming to visit or a school field trip, sometimes result in tantrums and sometimes aggressive behavior from kids with autism.
Of course, the need for routine also can make daily activities easier on parents. If the child is accustomed to brushing his teeth at a certain time every single day, the parents likely do not need to fight as hard to get their child to do it. The same can be said for going to bed on time and waking up for school.
There is a Social Stigma Surrounding Autism
Families with autistic children often report feeling isolated from others due to a lack of understanding. Those who know very little about autism do not know how to support, empathize with, or even interact with families of autistic children. Symptoms of autism such as aggression, tantrums, and sensory meltdowns can be easily misunderstood by outside parties, causing social isolation and even judgment from strangers.
Support groups can be helpful in counteracting the stigma surrounding autism, but it is more helpful to spread accurate information throughout communities. If diagnoses of autism were more widely understood, the families and kids would benefit immensely.
Parents of autistic children go about life a little differently than other parents. They may have to stick to routines and cater to their child’s fixations all while coping with the social stigma surrounding their child’s condition. However, despite these things, parents of autistic children are just parents at the end of the day; they are looking out for their child’s safety, health, and well-being and providing him with the best life they can. If someone you know has a child with autism, consider doing a little research. Showing empathy and understanding can make all the difference.
This article is a guest contribution from Sean Morris. He is a former social worker turned stay-at- home dad. He knows what it’s like to juggle family and career. He did it for years until deciding to become a stay-at- home dad after the birth of his son. Though he loved his career in social work, he has found this additional time with his kids to be the most rewarding experience of his life. He began writing for LearnFit.org to share his experiences and to help guide anyone struggling to find the best path for their life, career, and/or family.
SASSNA has only conducted a general review of the article for appropriateness. SASSNA has not verified all statements in the article, and SASSNA does not endorse or warranty statements in the article.